Breakfast scheme aimed at changing people’s lives, not freebie: MK Stalin

Root cause of the problems faced by the suppressed and marginalised people in the society must be identified and suitable remedies be provided, says Tamil Nadu Chief Minister

Stalin breakfast scheme
“I thought no child should attend classes with empty stomach," wrote Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has said that the breakfast scheme for the students of classes I to V, which he launched in Madurai on Thursday, is no freebie, but a step towards bringing a positive change in the lives of people. Such schemes, he said, should not be counted as freebies, charity, gift or privilege, but as “the bounden duty and responsibility” of the government.

In a piece written for The Hindu, the CM wrote: “We have enabled the schoolchildren to get their breakfast before attending their classes. The athimoolam (root cause) of the problems faced by the suppressed and marginalised people in the society must be identified and suitable remedies be provided. That is why, we have launched this scheme in Athimoolam Primary School, Madurai.” He expressed hope that the breakfast scheme will lead to regular attendance in schools and Tamil Nadu’s “great educational ratio”.

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School enrolments


The scheme was subsequently inaugurated in all districts of Tamil Nadu on Friday by ministers, MLAs and other elected representatives. Expected to increase enrolment in government schools, like the midday meals scheme, it has been rolled out in 37 schools in Chennai corporation, all in the northern part of the city. These schools were chosen due to their low enrolment. The corporation had earlier set up six kitchens to supply food to four to seven schools nearby. In the first phase, the scheme is being implemented by local bodies in 1,545 schools, benefitting 1.14 lakh students at a cost of Rs 33.56 crore.

“It is a coincidence that the school is located in Keezh Anna Thoppu. I am proud to be one of Anna’s (former CM Annadurai) younger brothers to have started this scheme on his birth anniversary. Exactly, 102 years ago, on September 16, one of the leaders of the Justice Party, Sir Pitti Thiagarayar passed a resolution to introduce mid-day meal scheme for children in Chennai Corporation. After a century, the breakfast programme is being launched,” the CM wrote.

Global precedents

Arguing that breakfast schemes in schools had been implemented in the US and across Europe, particularly in France, he said that research had shown that providing breakfast in schools improves the learning ability of students and increases attendance. “Analysts say the demand for breakfast schemes has increased after the COVID-19 pandemic. I am ready to make any sacrifice to alleviate the poverty of the Tamil community and hunger of the children,” he said.

The Dravidian movement, the CM wrote, was established to ensure children belonging to poor and suppressed families should not be prevented from going to school: “That is why the doctrine of Self-respect and Social Justice were coined. Communal reservation was brought as Thanthai Periyar (E.V. Ramasamy), Perarignar Anna (Annadurai) and Muthamizh Arignar (M. Karunanidhi) thought neither poverty nor caste should be a hindrance to one’s education. I am overwhelmed that I, the follower of their path, have come to a position to fulfil their dreams and have implemented it.”

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Mid-day meal scheme

The mid-day meal scheme was started in 1956 when Perunthalaivar Kamarajar was the Chief Minister. According to Stalin, the then Director of Public Education N.T.Sundaravadivelu, an ardent follower of Periyar, had implemented it despite strong opposition from some officials. It was enhanced when then Chief Minister Karunanidhi took charge of the Nutritional Meals Programme in 1971.

“He made it a grand movement by providing nutritional meals to children and pregnant mothers. He offered nutrient-rich bread to children (aged up to 3 years in municipalities around Chennai). In 1975, he launched an Integrated Nutritional Programme across the state,” Stalin wrote.

It was ‘Makkal Tilagam’ M.G. Ramachandran who took “great efforts to expand it setting up more centres and allotted more funds” when he was the Chief Minister. It was Karunanidhi who added egg, besides chickpeas, green gram and boiled potatoes, in the nutritious meal in 1989. “In 2010, he extended eggs for five days a week and provided bananas to those who do not prefer eggs. Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Amma ordered the provision of variety rice during her regime,” Stalin wrote.

Skipping breakfast

When Stalin attended a programme at a school in Chennai, he asked a few children if they’d had their breakfast. They replied: ‘No’. Later, when he consulted the authorities, they said that many children came to school, skipping breakfast.

“I thought no child should attend classes with empty stomach. Under the Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme, 1.14 lakh children from 1,545 schools will benefit at a cost of ₹12.75 per day/per child. I quote the ‘cost’ in administrative terminology. In fact it is not an expenditure; it is the duty of our government! We will progressively expand this project and take all steps expeditiously for its implementation to the fullest,” he wrote.